Did you ever wonder why we're called the
Westport Tigers? This question was brought up by a group of
students a few weeks ago.
We got out our old lamp, dusted it and lit
it up. Setting out like Diogenes we first went to the office
to Mr. D. H. Holloway, our recently retired principal, whom
we thought would know the most about it.
Mr. Holloway gave us a friendly greeting
and then pondered over our question. As Mr. Holloway recalled
it, Westport was already called the Tigers when he became principal
in 1929. However, he suggested that we contact Mr. J. L. Shouse,
who was the principal he replaced, and to contact Mr. George
Edwards, who used to be a coach at Westport.
The next move was to contact Mr. Edwards.
Mr. Holloway had said that Mr. Edwards had left Westport to
coach at Missouri University. We called the sports desk at
the Kansas City Star and asked about Mr. Edwards. They told
us that Mr. Edwards had retired from coaching but was still
at the university holding down the office of chairman of the
department of physical education. With hope we typed a short
letter to Mr. Edwards asking him the pertinent question. A
few days later, the reply came.
Mr. Edwards didn't know the answer. When
he became the Director of Physical Education and Athletics
at Westport in 1919, the teams were already called the Tigers.
He also had a faint recollection that when he was a student
at Central High School in 1908, the Westporters were already
called by this name.
Mr. Edwards suggested that we contact Mr.
R. V. Harman, who was a faculty manager of athletics and history
teacher for several years. He also referred us to the past
principal, Mr. J. L. Shouse, as Mr. Holloway had done.
Coming home exhausted from an idle day at
school, we grabbed the black instrument and began to dial.
Mr. R. V. Harmon wasn't at home, so we left our number with
his wife. About an hour later, Mr. Harmon called and blew his
chilly breath on our lamp. We didn’t know why we are
called the Tigers. In the period of 1909 to 1927 when he served
at Westport, he never recalled us being called the Tigers.
In fact he said that he thought the name was adopted in the
1930s, the era of depression. He suggested that we call Mr.
Reeves Peters, as he was likely to know.
Mr. Peters, who is executive secretary of
the Big Seven [note that this was the year before the conference
became the Big Eight], had never coached at Westport, but stored
up a great amount of sports lore. When we called his home,
his charming wife suggested that we try to reach him at his
office. This was done.
Mr. Peters was as much in the dark as we
were. He didn't know why we are called the Tigers but always
thought the name was adopted when George Edwards came from
M. U. and became the coach, because Edwards was a Missouri "Tiger." Mr.
Peters suggested that we look through some of the year books
that were published several years ago and perhaps it would
be explained there.
Now we called Mr. Shouse who was principal
of Westport from 1913 to 1929. He didn't know the answer either.
We had always been called the Tigers when he was principal
here. We told him whom we had called and he told us to call
back later with a list of all the men that he thought would
possibly know. We hung up after the conversation and tried
to bolster the waning flame with a little coffee.
About 5 o'clock that afternoon we called
the friendly Mr. Shouse again. He apologized for not having
been able to supply the information and gave us a list of men
to call and a wish of good luck.
Getting out the trusty old phone book we
looked for the numbers of Mr. Clayton Dillingham, Mr. Lester
Gregg, Mr. Louis Fisher, and Mr. J. H. Haas. We couldn't find
the number of Clayton Dillingham.
So we turned our inquiring lamp into the
eyes of Mr. Lester Gregg. Mr. Gregg, a graduate of 1901, said
that we were called the Tigers when he went there. Back in
those days, he related, there wasn't much of a team. In fact
four of the members were not students at Westport or any other
school. They were working men who had an interest in football
and a free afternoon.
Mr. Gregg also informed us that he was the
captain of the first baseball team at Westport. We were called
the Tigers when he went here, but why, he couldn't tell us.
The next man on the list was Mr. Louis Fisher
of the class of 1901. Mr. Fisher told a tale very similar to
that of Mr. Gregg's. He reported that ever since he went to
Westport the teams, although they were small because only 100
students attended the school, were called the Tigers. In 1901
only 25 people graduated and Mr. Fisher reports there aren't
too many of these graduates left. Mr. Fisher did make one hopeful
statement that if he found out anything about the origin of
the name Tigers he would inform us.
The last man we talked to was Mr. J. H. Haas,
a graduate of 1920. He states that Westport was called the
Tigers in 1916 when he first started here. It is Mr. Haas conception
that perhaps we adopted this name from M. U. but exactly how
or where we got the name he doesn't know. Mr. Haas suggested
that maybe the name was adopted when the school was first opened
and that a search in the library of the Kansas City Star might
reveal some old newspaper articles bearing on the subject.
The search through the Star's files did bring
many interesting things to light, things which provide an insight
into the deep tradition which fills the halls of Westport,
but nothing which confirmed why our teams are named after Tigers.
We may never know.